What is a 404 Error Page?

So, we have all been there before…. You have searched for something or browsed through numerous pages on a website only to stumble across a ‘404 Error Page’ saying this page no longer exists.

Speaking as a professional Cheshire Web Design Agency, while users may experience frustration from not being able to access information, a well-designed 404 error page can become the perfect call-to-action opportunity. Not only can you re-engage with your visitors to explore other useful information, products and services on your website, it also showcases how, you as a business, handle customer experience when something goes wrong.

In this post, our Cheshire Web Agency will explain what a 404 error page is, list what you can do to make 404 error pages work for you and provide some creative ideas which have worked for other business websites.

What is a 404 Error Page?

A 404 Error is standard response code given when a page has been deleted, renamed or no longer exists. In computer network communications, this indicates that the user was able to access and communicate a certain page with a given server, but that server could not find what was requested.

Examples of a 404 Error

The most common example of a 404 error occurs when you rename or delete an existing page on your website and do not instruct search engines of these changes.

Let’s say for example, I have page named ‘Cheshire Web Agency’ and have it linked throughout numerous pages on my website and in my menu. If I change this to ‘Web Agency Cheshire’ but do not update the links and the menu, users will still access the historic page which now no longer exists which is what a 404 error page is, also known as a broken internal link. Once you have fixed your internal hyperlinks, next you need to submit your changes to Google Search Console.

As well as internal broken links on your website, you can also have external broken links. These are links that take the user to a different website and can often occur if that website has removed or renamed that link. To address this, you can either contact the website and ask if they have changed the URL, or completely remove the link from your website.

What you can do to make 404 error pages work for you

  1. Don’t rely on the default
    Most good content management systems (CMS) will have a default 404 page built in and therefore, unless you update the page, this is the one that will show if a 404 is returned. The default page may just be a line of text with the error code, that could leave your website visitor feeling frustrated and disenchanted with the website experience. As a Cheshire Web Design Agency, this is something we are guilty off… with most good content management systems, you will have an auto-generated 404 page built in and therefore, unless you update or customise it, you will have a default, boring page which will not only leave the visitor frustrated but also disenchanted with the website experience if they can’t find what they need to get back on track.
  2. Branding opportunities
    As you will see later on in this post, the best 404 error pages are branding opportunities! If you put effort into email marketing or social media, sometimes for users, a 404 page may be the first interaction they have with your website. Although it is an error page, you can still restore confidence in your user by ensuring that the aesthetics of the 404 error page fit with the rest of the website.
  3. Avoid clutter and get creative
    Finding the right balance is key! Although it’s great to see a business website make an effort to customise a 404 error page, some businesses can be found guilty of over cluttering everything by overloading the page with way to much information and links to frustrate the user even more.

Instead of cluttering the page, a 404 error page provides the perfect opportunity to get creative as shown in the examples below;

mailchimp 404 error page example

Mailchimp play on their branding image but also include a search bar to help users to get back on track

cheshire web agency 404 error page example

useless website index took advantage of the popular meerkats by introducing this funny video

Emirates 404 Error Page Example

Emirates include a very easy navigation menu so users can easily find what information they need

How to find and fix 404 Errors on your website?

For those of you who are our with our Cheshire Web Design Agency care packages, you will be familiar with both our subscription packages and WPG reports where we fix these links for you and submit the results to search engines so all your 404 errors are taken care off.

If you would like to get in touch to review your website, or perhaps creating a 404 error page to meet your branding identity, or if you simply want to share any funny, creative 404 error pages, get in touch and send them to [email protected]